In a further step in a research which was opened to demonstrate that human stem cells can be genetically modified to give rise to cells able to successfully combat the HIV virus that causes AIDS, a team of scientists from UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles) has now demonstrated effective action of cells derived from stem cells against HIV-infected cells in a living organism.
This new study demonstrates for the first time that genetic modification of stem cells to create immune cells that identify and attack selectively to HIV is effective to suppress the virus in living tissues of an animal model.
The team of Scott G. Kitchen believes this study provides the basis for using this approach in combating HIV in infected individuals, and projects a beam of hope on the possibility of eradicating the virus from the body.
In previous research, the scientists took CD8 cytotoxic T lymphocytes (cells “exterminating” the immune system that help fight infection) of a person infected with HIV, and identified the molecule known as T cell receptor, which helps to a T cell to recognize and kill cells infected by HIV. Although these T cells are capable of destroying HIV infected cells in the body there is the necessary amount of them to eradicate the virus. Therefore, the researchers cloned the receptor and used to genetically modify human stem cells from the blood. Then put the modified stem cells in human tissue of the gland known as the “scam”, which had been implanted in mice, which allowed studying the reaction in a living organism.
Modified stem cells became a large population of mature CD8 cells that could attack specific multifunctional cells that contain HIV proteins.
In the current study, similarly, the researchers modified human stem cells from blood and found that can give rise to mature T cells able to attack HIV in those tissues where the virus resides and replicates. For work, the scientists used a model substitute for human, mouse, “humanized”, in which HIV infection is very similar to how the disease and its progression in humans.
In a series of tests performed on mice two to six weeks after having introduced the modified cells, the researchers found that the amount of T cell “helper” CD4, which are killed by HIV infection, increased, while levels HIV in the blood decreased. CD4 cells are white blood cells are an important component of the immune system, helping to fight infections. These results indicate that the modified cells were able to grow and migrate into the organs to combat the infection there.
The investigation was also worked by Bernard R. Levin, Gregory Bristol, Valerie Rezek, Sohn Kim, Christian Aguilera-Sandoval, Arumugam Balamurugan, Otto O. Yang and Jerome A. Zack, all from UCLA.